Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Tone Poem Tuesday

I know I've featured this work before, but it's so good that it bears returning once in a while. Ottorino Resphigi was an Italian composer most active in the early 20th century, but he wasn't much of a modernist: he preferred to cloak musical forms from the Baroque eras and before in the more modern sounds of the Romantic orchestra and harmonies. As such, Resphigi turned out music that sounds compulsively fresh no matter how many times I listen to it. His tone poem The Pines of Rome takes its genesis from the great pine trees to be found in that city, and the movements are of interesting character. The first is playful, while the second takes a solemn turn that suggests the orders of a Catholic monastery. In the third movement we have an atmospheric nocturne that features, towards its end, a bit of recorded birdsong; and then in the fourth movement there is dawn and powerful culminating triumph.

Resphigi's music is atmospheric and impressionistic, and though it doesn't quite abide with memorable melodies, it is full of what Wagner might call "melodic moments of feeling". This is music of power and mystery and pure magic. Here is Ottorino Resphigi's The Pines of Rome.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

For National Poetry Month, a poem.

From An Anthology of World Poetry, edited by Mark Van Doren, a French ballad. No poet is named.

"The Bridge of Death"

"The dance is on the Bridge of Death
   And who will dance with me?"
"There's never a man of living men
   Will dare to dance with thee."

Now Margaret's gone within her bower,
   Put ashes in her hair,
And sackcloth on her bonny breast,
   And on her shoulders bare.

There came a knock to her bower door,
   And blithe she let him in;
It was her brother from the wars,
   The dearest of her kin.

"Set gold within your hair, Margaret,
   Set gold within your hair,
And gold upon your girdle band,
   And on your breast so fair.

For we are bidden to dance to-night,
   We may not bide away;
This one good night, this one fair night,
   Before the red new day."

"Nay, no gold for my head, brother,
   Nay, no gold for my hair;
It is the ashes and dust of earth
   That you and I must wear.

"No gold for mu girdle band,
   No godl work on my feet;
But ashes of the fire, my love,
   But dust that the serpents eat."

They danced across the Bridge of DEath,
   Above the black water,
And the marriage-bell was tolled in hell
   For the souls of him and her.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Of Cackling Emperors and other things....

OK, so now that I'm done cranking out the words every day in a final push to complete a novel draft, what should we talk about? Why...how about the teaser trailer to Star Wars Episode IX that dropped a few weeks ago?

If you haven't seen it, here it is:

As with all teasers, there's simultaneously a lot to unpack there and...there's nothing to unpack there. Teaser trailers are designed to tantalize in any of a hundred different ways, and since this thing showed up online during the Star Wars Celebration fan festival, the Interwebs have been all a-tizzy as they try to read the tea leaves.

Well, never one to leave a muddle of wet tea unscrutinized, here are some random thoughts of my own!

1. As the Lucasfilm logo fades in we hear breathing. It's Rey, and our first glimpse of anything in the trailer is Rey herself, standing alone in the middle of a desert wasteland. This is already reminiscent of the first shot of the trailer for The Force Awakens, in which we saw Finn also standing alone in the middle of a desert wasteland...but where Finn looked visibly afraid and distraught, Rey's manner is one of calm. She is relaxing into...a moment.

2. Luke Skywalker's voice: "We've passed on all we know," and Rey pulls out her lightsaber. It's the Anakin-and-Luke model that she's been sporting through this trilogy, but...it was broken in two when she and Kylo Ren Force-battled to claim in in The Last Jedi, so now it's been reforged. The lightsaber is now Anduril to the original Narsil, if I may.

3. Luke, continued: "A thousand generations live in you now." This establishes that Rey is, after all, the last Jedi. It's all down to her.

4. Onscreen text: "Every generation has a legend." This calls back to the "Every saga has a beginning" line in that first trailer way back in 1998 for The Phantom Menace. Interesting choice, given the lengths this creative team went during the TFA build-up to differentiate their movie from the Prequels.

5. A TIE ship zooms across the same landscape, approaching Rey. It's flying right-to-left, kicking up a cloud of dust. This echoes the pod race from TPM, but reversed (the pod race mostly went left-to-right), and also the attack of the Resistance X-wings from TFA, when they streaked across a lake and kicked up water spray (and also went left-to-right).

6. The TIE ship bears down, Rey runs, we don't see who's flying the ship although I guess we're supposed to assume it's Kylo Ren, and then...Rey does this big slow-motion backflip toward the ship, with her lightsaber ignited. Hmmmm. This is not the type of action move we've ever really seen in a Star Wars movie. We cut away as the music erupts into a powerful rendition of Princess Leia's theme, which is, for all intents and purposes, the Star Wars music of choice for really big emotional beats.

7. A ship flying through mountains to a city at night on some planet. No idea. Someone online noted a similarity between that ship and the one that Rey envisioned during her Force-dream in TFA, the ship that presumably carried her parents away as young Rey screamed "Come back!" But I don't know.

8. Kylo Ren in action. I guess we have to see him, but Kylo Ren remains for me one of this trilogy's least well-executed factors. He's reforging his mask, he makes a power move in a fight with his goofy lightsaber.

9. Finn and Poe on some desert planet. The same one Rey's on? Maybe. Finn seems to be holding Rey's staff, and Poe Dameron is standing behind him on a rock outcropping that looks a bit like one of those from Obi Wan Kenobi's skulkings-about on the planet Geonosis way back in Attack of the Clones. Hmmmm....

10. The Millennium Falcon, flying through hyperspace as LANDO F***ING CALRISSIAN laughs with glee. I'm not gonna tell you I'm not excited to see Lando in action again, because I am! I do continue to think that this trilogy's use of the classic characters has not been handled as well as I would like. But anyway, the Falcon exits hyperspace but we don't get to see where. Hmmmm....

11. Onscreen text: "The Saga comes to an end." Well, yup, I suppose. I continue to view this story as not the third part of a saga but as a tacked-on thing added on by someone other than the author. Unfair? Maybe. But this trilogy, even with all its merits (and it does have them, even if most of them are in The Last Jedi), just doesn't feel to me like an organic continuation of what went before.

12. A series of quick cuts: speeder vehicles including ones so small they look like Quidditch brooms, Poe and Finn and C-3PO in some kind of action shot, and then...fingers caressing what looks like one of the medals Luke and Han got for blowing up the Death Star in ANH, and Rey hugging Leia. I'm interested to see how this movie constructs a satisfying narrative for Leia out of pre-existing cut footage from the last two movies, now that Carrie Fisher is gone.

13. A wide shot of our heroes! Rey in the foreground, with Finn, Poe, C-3PO, BB8, some new droid, and Chewbacca all behind her. They have the classic "There it is!" expression that all movie adventurers get when they crest the last rise before whatever it is they're looking for.

14. Then we cut to the other view: what they're looking at. It's an ocean shore, with crashing waves and...way out amongst the rocks...a giant piece of metal wreckage with a particular indentation in it, circular. It's a crash chunk of a Death Star.

15. Luke: "No one is ever really gone." Cut to black, and....

16. The unmistakable laughter of Emperor Palpatine.

17. The trailer ends with the title card: STAR WARS, and then the episode's subtitle: The Rise of Skywalker.

OK. Operating under the assumption that this teaser is designed to create all kinds of misdirection and speculation-fodder for thoughts that will turn out false, we should go down the rabbit hole anyway! But first, here's a cool moment from the trailer's first screening at STAR WARS Celebration. The fans are cheering and going nuts...and then the lights come back on and there, on stage, all by himself, is actor Ian McDiarmid, who played Palpatine in the first six films. It's a great moment, and really, shouldn't we all admit now that McDiarmid created one of the iconic villains in movies in Palpatine?


"ROLL IT AGAIN!" Love it!

All right. So. The trailer.

Again, most of this will almost certainly be false.

First, the title: The Rise of Skywalker. What does that mean?

Well I don't know, but I do not think it will mean that Rey's backstory from TLJ, of being a nobody born to worthless parents, will be retconned. A lot of fans seem to think that JJ Abrams is going to be using this movie to walk back all the stuff that many fans recoiled against in the last film, but Abrams was involved in TLJ's production. He executive produced it, and Kathleen Kennedy has overseen all of these movies. Rian Johnson was not simply handed a wad of cash and told "Come back to us with a Star Wars movie."

Plus, the creative team has made no bones about their using this trilogy to put the entire "Skywalker Saga" to bed, so that moving forward after Episode IX, any new Star Wars stories will be non-Skywalker tales. I'm fine with that, to be honest. It's a big galaxy, after all. Lots of stories to be told.

But the title is The Rise of Skywalker, so if the saga is ending, what can be rising? One fan theory has the Jedi ending entirely with a new brand of Force-users coming in the wake of these events, called "Skywalkers". Maybe. Or maybe this title simply refers to the Skywalker family's final coming-down on the light side of the Force, after decades of being good then bad then good then bad again.

The problem there is that in this movie there's only one Skywalker descendant left, and that's Kylo Ren. If he's the one who is supposed to balance the Skywalker clan's books with regard to the Force, it implies that he gets a redemption arc, which I'm not that interested in seeing, on pure story grounds: We already had a Sith redemption arc with Darth Vader. And these films have been a lot more up front with Kylo Ren's evil, right down to his murdering his own father, Han Solo. Can Kylo Ren be redeemed? Of course he can. These movies have already established it. But for me, a Kylo Ren redemption arc would feel like one more echo of the Original Trilogy in a trilogy that has too many such echoes already.

Maybe Rey, when all is said and done and all of the remaining Skywalkers have died, takes on the name herself, kind of like how in Titanic Rose took the surname Dawson when she arrived in New York on the Carpathia, in tribute to Jack Dawson who died saving her from the sinking ship. In that way the Skywalkers would end...but they would also rise. Maybe.

Second, what about that Death Star?

I'd hoped that we could have a Star Wars story that does not involve a giant planet-destroying weapon, and yet, here we've got a wrecked Death Star. Fan speculation here centers on just which of the two Death Stars we've seen destroyed this is: Is it the one from A New Hope, crashed on Yavin IV or another of Yavin's moons? Or is it the one from Return of the Jedi, crashed on Endor after its destruction? And if that's Endor we're looking at, are the Ewoks all dead, having been wiped out in a planetary calamity of a big piece of Death Star falling out of the sky?

Maybe it's neither.

There was a lot of galactic history outside of just the movies. Remember that the Prequels established that the Death Star was at least in the conceptual stage as far back as Attack of the Clones, and that we saw the very beginnings of a Death Star shell under construction at the very end of Revenge of the Sith, whose events took place a full two decades before the Original Trilogy.

That shot has always been slightly problematic, hasn't it? Is that supposed to be the very Death Star that would later show up in A New Hope? Did it really take twenty years to build it?

Maybe the one in the Episode IX trailer is neither of the two Death Stars from the OT. Maybe it was a prototype. Remember above, when I noted that the rock formation that Poe is standing on looks more than a little like some of those seen on Geonosis, the planet where the Death Star was first designed.

From The Rise of Skywalker

From Attack of the Clones

Again, I'm probably completely wrong in this, but this is what makes it fun!

So, what if our heroes are on Geonosis, where construction first began on the Death Star? According to the new canon established by Disney after their kinda-reboot, the Empire eventually moved Death Star construction away from Geonosis and sterilized the planet, killing all of the Geonosans. But maybe a prototype that was never operational was scuttled, and maybe that wreckage fell onto an already-dead planet, winding up at the edge of a Geonosan ocean.

Remember, from Rogue One we know that Death Star development took many years and ran into huge technical problems that were only surmounted once Galen Erso was brought in by Orson Krennic to figure out how to make the superlaser work. So maybe the crashed Death Star is one that was never close to working...but there's something important about it.

Maybe...Kyber crystals, which power many weapons in the Star Wars universe, from lightsabers to Death Star superlasers.

Much rumor about Episode IX has at least part of the plot revolving around a secret mission that our heroes are entrusted with by General Leia Organa. Maybe that mission is to find the crashed Death Star and recover its Kyber crystals, for the Rebellion to use against the First Order. Maybe this time it's the Rebellion that's trying to build a super weapon, which would actually make sense, given how the Rebellion's numbers were reduced in TLJ to the carrying capacity of the Millennium Falcon.

So, enough about Death Stars. What about our friend the Emperor? Old Papa Palpatine? Well, I was a bit surprised to head his laughter, along with everybody else. I'm less thrilled about this, since we've already had a Palpatine-back-from-the-dead story (in Dark Empire, a comics series that came out in the 90s and became an accepted part of the "Star Wars expanded universe," as the non-film content before Disney's Lucasfilm purchase came to be known). Also, a very-much still-active-after-all-these-years Palpatine negates yet another of the happy-ending outcomes of Return of the Jedi, if it turns out that Darth Vader's self-sacrifice wasn't to kill Palpatine but to just inconvenience him for a few years.

No, I'm not in love with the idea of Palpatine showing up again. But...here he is, apparently. In some form.

Backing up a bit, we have Supreme Leader Snoke, murdered by Kylo Ren in TLJ. I've been pretty open about my frustration regarding Snoke and his personification of what I see as some serious worldbuilding errors in this trilogy. Snoke is completely without backstory of any kind, which has always annoyed me. I've always been bothered by the fact that these movies give no explanation for how the triumph at the end of Return of the Jedi ended up being pretty much meaningless and that the galaxy went to shit anyway. We're given this evil Force user (Snoke never actually claims the mantle of "Sith"), with no hint of where he came from or who he is or anything at all. And then he's killed and that's that for Snoke.

Or is it?

First of all, I've wondered if Snoke actually was killed in TLJ, because Luke Skywalker clearly establishes that for a Force user of sufficient power, projecting a physical copy of oneself across the universe is a thing. Maybe Snoke was doing that and thus was never in that Throne Room.

But maybe Snoke was just a simulacrum operated by Palpatine, or a mere puppet for Palpatine...or maybe Snoke actually was Palpatine. Maybe Palpatine has been a disembodied Force spirit who moves from one body to the next. Heck, springing off my point just above...maybe Palpatine was Force-projecting a copy of himself into the Throne Room in Return of the Jedi! Maybe Vader wasn't throwing anybody into the shaft at all!

Well, probably not. But if Palpatine's around in a way similar to the way that Yoda and Luke and others are, maybe this makes Kylo Ren the proxy stand-in for the entire line of Sith, just as Rey is for the Jedi.

You never know...and all this navel-gazing may end up completely refuted by the next trailer. I guess we'll see...but we're a mere eight months away from this movie's release. Revealed, all shall soon be....

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Something for Thursday

And...we're done!

And...BOOM! The first draft of ORION'S HUNTRESS is DONE!!! #amwriting #writersofinstagram #sciencefiction #spaceopera #orionshuntress

I've been cranking out the words for the last couple weeks in order to bring this one to its conclusion, and this morning, conclude it, I did!

So here's a bit of cheerful triumphalism. (Sorry about the vuvuzela things.)

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Tone Poem Tuesday

I know, I know, I know. Long time, not much content. In my defense, though:

BIG day! #amwriting #writersofinstagram #sciencefiction #spaceopera #orionshuntress

This can only mean one thing: I'm writing my ass off, getting the first draft of Orion's Huntress done. Above is a screenshot from the Session Statistics tool that Scrivener (my main writing program these days) gives. For me, anything over 2000 words is a big day, and I've been averaging 1500 or so a day for the last week and a half. I'm close, folks. I am so close!

So what does this mean for Tone Poem Tuesday? A piece of familiar music that doesn't need a lot of introduction? Why, yes! So turn up your speakers and watch the pretty people in Egyptian dress as they perform the Triumphal March from Verdi's Aida.

After this draft is done I won't be doing any first-draft writing for a long time as I have a bunch of manuscripts that need first mark-ups, so hopefully I'll settle into a more consistent schedule here. Meanwhile...Excelsior!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Tone Poem Tuesday

Not a tone poem this week, but an actual symphony, one written originally for a very large wind band for an outdoor ceremonial purpose by Hector Berlioz. This work, called the Grande symphonie funebre et triomphale, was actually one of Berlioz's most popular works during his lifetime, although like everything he else he wrote that wasn't the Symphonie fantastique, it languished out of the repertoire for many years after his death. The symphony consists of three movements: a funeral march, followed by a "funeral oration" (including a lyrical part for a solo trombone), and then a triumphal march which Berlioz later edited to include optional strings and chorus. While there is no connection between this work and the Cathedral of Notre Dame, it seems to me that this work suits the mood surrounding yesterday's disaster at that great building: grief, and mourning, and the certainty that the building will rise again as it has more than a few times in its 800-year history.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Something for Thursday

Yes, we missed last week. And yes, we're back in the saddle this week. Sticking with our song challenge, this week's entry is A Song That's a Classic Favorite. Lots of ways to interpret that, aren't there? Here are a couple oldies that I like a whole lot.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Tone Poem Tuesday

Sorry for the late posting, but geez, I'm having a busy bunch of days here. Wowza.

Anyway, here's an old favorite of mine. I haven't heard a lot of Edward Elgar's music, but whenever I listen to him I come away thinking I need to listen to him a lot more. Elgar wrote this piece while spending several months in the Italian Riviera with his family. I don't know the first thing about the Italian Riviera, but in this piece I hear adventure and wistful remembrance and drama and excitement. This concert overture reminds me of the very best film music from that form's Golden Age, and for me, that is a compliment.

Here is "Alassio (In the South)", by Sir Edward Elgar.

Monday, April 08, 2019

"January, 1795" by Mary Robinson (a poem)

Mary Robinson (1757-1800),
painted by Thomas Gainsborough

One of a series of occasional posts for National Poetry Month.

One of my major resolutions for 2019 is to read more poetry. I've always enjoyed poetry and I always try to read some here and there, but this year I'm trying to be even more serious about it, even to the point of starting a poetry reading journal in which I record thoughts about poems as I read them. I'm also reading some books about poetry in an ongoing attempt to strengthen this particular literary muscle of mine.

I discovered this poem purely serendipitously: by thumbing through one of my copies of The Oxford Book of English Verse. (I have multiple editions of this book, because its contents have not been constant through the many years of its publication, and alongside the eternals are the lesser-so works, and poems are like music in that many that deserve to live on don't always do so). I found a single poem by a poet named Mary Robinson, of whom I don't remember ever hearing before. Here is the poem:

January, 1795

Pavement slipp’ry, people sneezing,
Lords in ermine, beggars freezing;
Titled gluttons dainties carving,
Genius in a garret starving.

Lofty mansions, warm and spacious;
Courtiers cringing and voracious;
Misers scarce the wretched heeding;
Gallant soldiers fighting, bleeding.

Wives who laugh at passive spouses;
Theatres, and meeting-houses;
Balls, where simp’ring misses languish;
Hospitals, and groans of anguish.

Arts and sciences bewailing;
Commerce drooping, credit failing;
Placemen mocking subjects loyal;
Separations, weddings royal.

Authors who can’t earn a dinner;
Many a subtle rogue a winner;
Fugitives for shelter seeking;
Misers hoarding, tradesmen breaking.

Taste and talents quite deserted;
All the laws of truth perverted;
Arrogance o’er merit soaring;
Merit silently deploring.

Ladies gambling night and morning;
Fools the works of genius scorning;
Ancient dames for girls mistaken,
Youthful damsels quite forsaken.

Some in luxury delighting;
More in talking than in fighting;
Lovers old, and beaux decrepid;
Lordlings empty and insipid.

Poets, painters, and musicians;
Lawyers, doctors, politicians:
Pamphlets, newspapers, and odes,
Seeking fame by diff’rent roads. 
Gallant souls with empty purses;
Gen’rals only fit for nurses;
School-boys, smit with martial spirit,
Taking place of vet’ran merit.

Honest men who can’t get places,
Knaves who shew unblushing faces;
Ruin hasten’d, peace retarded;
Candor spurn’d, and art rewarded.

I read this poem three times in a row the first time I found it, and I've been returning to it ever since. More than that, this single poem has made me keenly interested in Robinson herself, who seems to have lived quite a colorful life. She wasn't just a poet. She was an early feminist, and an actress (she would be nickanmed "Perdita" after she did notable performances in that role in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale), and later she became the mistress of the Prince of Wales, before he himself went on to become King George III. Though she eventually died in poverty, Robinson has come in for reappraisal in recent years. I have even been reading her own memoirs, and so far they are fascinating (I am only in the early going, before she had struck out on her own after a childhood of paternal neglect and maternal overwork.)

But back to January, 1795. The poem is simply a word painting, creating a sense of a specific place (London) at a specific time. There are no sentences in the poem, just fragments comprising a series of quatrains which are themselves comprised of rhyming couplets. Throughout Robinson juxtaposes specific details, often combining a beautiful one with an ugly one: "Lofty mansions, warm and spacious; / Courtiers cringing and voracious." This structure puts me in mind of Charles Dickens's amazing opening line to A Tale of Two Cities: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...." I wonder if Dickens had occasion to read Robinson's poem.

Stay tuned for more poetry!

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Farewell, Vonda N. McIntyre (From the Books)

Science fiction and fantasy author Vonda N. McIntyre has died.

I feel that I've done McIntyre a disservice all these years. I've read a lot of her work, but none beyond her well-known tie-in books in the Star Trek and Star Wars universes. But on the other hand, she wrote all those books voluntarily and she wrote some of them so well that they stand up even outside their tie-in status. And what's so bad about tie-in work, anyway? There's a reason the Trek and Wars franchises are so well-established. I do own a couple of McIntyre's non-Trek books, and I should probably make reading them a higher priority.

One novel of hers that I especially liked was her original Trek novel Enterprise: The First Adventure, in which she told the story of how the very first voyage of the starship Enterprise under the command of Captain James T. Kirk went. This novel posed a number of challenges for McIntyre: she couldn't rely on the tried-and-true relationship tropes of Trek. Kirk and McCoy were already good friends at this point, but neither knew the Enterprise's Vulcan science officer; there couldn't be any hint here of "I have been, and always shall be, your friend." McIntyre also wrote a Lt. Sulu who didn't even want to be on the Enterprise, and Commander Montgomery Scott who was so skeptical of his new Captain and so possessive of "his" ship that he nearly let his attitude force Captain Kirk to order his transfer off the finest ship in Starfleet.

Another thing McIntyre did in this book is to show that Kirk's ascent to commanding the Enterprise wasn't just a straight-line thing that involved no sacrifice at all. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which McIntyre novelized, established that there was one woman in Kirk's past life who was much more than a momentary conquest. Dr. Carol Marcus might have been the love of his life, and she was the only one (that we ever knew of) to bear James T. Kirk's child. So in Enterprise, Vonda McIntyre wrote a wonderful scene in which Kirk is torn between his dream of command and a woman he loves. It's the kind of amazing character writing at which McIntyre excelled. She made you care about these characters. Her writing is full of scenes like this, and now I have to wonder even more what magic she was able to conjure with characters of her very own.

Here's the scene.

Carol turned, uncharacteristically flustered. "Jim--!"

"Hello, Carol." He stopped. He wanted to say everything to her, or he wanted to say nothing. He wanted to make love with her, or he wanted never to see her again.

"Talk to you later," Dr. Eng said, and made a diplomatic exit.

"How are you feeling, Jim?"

He ignored the question. His heart beat hard. "It's wonderful to see you. I have to leave soon. Can we...I'd like to talk to you. Would you have a drink with me?"

"I don't feel like having a drink," she said. "But I will go for a walk with you."

Jim paused beside Gary, still hoping he might awaken. [That's Gary Mitchell, Kirk's best friend who was his First Office in the episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before," before his character died.] "Get well, my friend," Jim said, and left Ms. Chapel the note to give him when he regained consciousness.

They did not have to discuss where to go. Jim and Carol walked toward their park.

Without meaning to, exactly, Jim kept brushing against Carol. His shoulder touched her shoulder; his fingers touched the back of her hand. At first she moved aside.

"Oh--" Carol said impatiently the third time Jim touched her. She took his hand and held it. "We are still friends, I hope."

"I hope so too," Jim said. He tried to pretend the electric tingle of physical attraction no longer existed between them, but he found it impossible to deceive himself that much. Being near Carol made Jim feel as if a powerful current case a web over both of them, exchanging and intensifying every passion.

"Are you sleeping any better?" Carol said.

Jim hesitated between the truth and a lie. "I'm sleeping fine," he said.

Carol gave him a quizzical glance, and he knew he had hesitated too long. She had held him too many times, when the nightmare slapped him awake in the darkest hours of the morning.

"If you want to talk about it...." she said.

"No. I don't want to talk about it," he said in a clipped tone. [This all happens in the aftermath of a bad incident that left Kirk emotionally scarred.]..."No," he said again, more gently. "I don't want to talk about it."

Still holding hands, they reached the small park and set out along the path that circled the lake. Ducks swam alongside them, quacking for a handout.

"We always forget to bring them anything," Carol said. "How many times have we walked here--we always meant to bring them some bread, but we never did."

"We had...other things on our minds."


"Carol, there's got to be some way--!"

He cut off his words when he felt her tense.

"Such as what?" she said.

"We could--we could get married."

She looked at him; for a moment he thought she was going to burst out laughing.

"What?" she said.

"Let's get married. We could transport to Spacedock. Admiral Noguchi could perform the ceremony."

"But why marriage, for heaven's sake?"

"That's the way we do it in my family," Jim said stiffly.

"Not in mine," Carol said. "And anyway, it still wouldn't work."

"It's worked for quite a number of generations," Jim said, though in the case of his own parents the statement stretched the truth. "Carol, I love you. You love me. You're the person I'd most want to be with if I were stranded on a desert planet. We have fun together--remember when we went to the dock and snuck on board the Enterprise for our own private tour--" At her expression, he stopped. "It's true."

"Yes," she said. "It's true. And I've missed you. The house is awfully quiet without you."

"Then you'll do it?"

"No. We talked about this too many times. No matter what we do, it wouldn't make any difference. I can't be with you and you can't stay with me."

"But I could. I could transfer to headquarters--"

"Jim..." She turned to face him. She held both his hands and looked into his eyes. "I remember how you felt when you found out you're getting command of the Enterprise. Do you think anyone who loved you would want to take that away from you? Do you think you could love anyone who tried?"

"I love you," he said. "I don't want to lose you."

"I don't want to lose you, either. But I lost you before I ever met you. I can get used to the quiet. I can't get used to having you back for a few weeks at a time and losing you over and over and over again."

He kept seeking a different solution, but the pattern led him in circles and he could find no way out.

"I know you're right," he said, miserable. "I just..."

Tears silvered Carol's dark blue eyes.

They kissed each other, one last time. She held him. He laid his head on her shoulder with his face turned away, because he, too, was near tears.

"I love you too, Jim," she said. "But we don't live on a desert planet."

That's how you write a heartbreaking farewell scene...and it comes very early in the book, before we even see Captain Kirk on the bridge of his new ship. McIntyre knew how to set the emotional stage for her stories.

I really do owe her a reading with newer eyes....

Tone Poem Tuesday

I am really stretching the idea of a "tone poem" with today's selection, because what we have today is not an orchestral piece at all but rather a choral one, with much of it being a capella (there's a piano at one point). I heard part of this work whilst driving home the other day and I just had to share it here, where it sort-of ties in to April being National Poetry Month. American composer Morten Lauridsen set five poems by German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, each of which deals with the subject of a rose. Lauridsen--who was a forest ranger and firefighter before he turned to music--has this to say about this piece:

In addition to his vast output of German poetry, Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) composed nearly 400 poems in French. His poems on roses struck me as especially charming, filled with gorgeous lyricism, deftly crafted and elegant in their imagery. These exquisite poems are primarily light, joyous and playful, and the musical settings are designed to enhance these characteristics and capture the delicate beauty and sensuousness of the poetry. Distinct melodic and harmonic materials recur throughout the cycle, especially between Rilke's poignant “Contre qui, rose” (set as a wistful nocturne) and his moving “La rose complète.” The final piece, “Dirait-on,” is composed as a tuneful chanson populaire, or folksong, that weaves together two melodic ideas first heard in fragmentary form in preceding movements.

Lauridsen's composition is deeply intimate and full of harmonic resolution; modern dissonance has no place here. The music is almost luminous at times.

Here is the text of one of Rilke's rose poems (he apparently wrote more than five, so how Lauridsen chose which ones to set, I don't know), as sourced from poetry blogger Clarissa Ackroyd.

THE ROSES (Rainer Maria Rilke, translated from French by Clarissa Aykroyd)


One rose alone is every rose,
one, but manifold meaning:
perfect and irreplaceable,
framed by words of being.

How could we ever speak
without the rose,
of sweet interludes in constant farewell,
or of our hopes?

(Original French)


Une rose seule, c'est toutes les roses
et celle-ci: l'irremplaçable,
le parfait, le souple vocable
encadré par le texte des choses.

Comment jamais dire sans elle
ce que furent nos espérances,
et les tendres intermittences
dans la partance continuelle.

Here is Les chansons des roses by Morten Lauridsen.

Monday, April 01, 2019

April Fool's Day! (and the beginning of National Poetry Month)

It's April Fools Day! I'm not a huge fan of this day as a celebration of pranking people, seeing if you can embarrass them or get them to believe some false news story or the like. But I'd be all for a day in which we celebrate laughter and All Things Funny, whether it's sophisticated wordplay or gonzo silliness or a good old pie in the face. Here are a few things that always hit my funny bone:

(Here, on an episode of Cheers, Sam finds that his bar has been bricked in as a prank by Gary of Gary's Old Town Tavern...but all is well because he's got an Irish band coming....)

And here, because National Poetry Month is starting today, is a poem about laughter by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

Momus, God Of Laughter

Though with the gods the world is cumbered,
Gods unnamed, and gods unnumbered,
Never god was known to be
Who had not his devotee.
So I dedicate to mine,
Here in verse, my temple-shrine.

'Tis not Ares - mighty Mars,
Who can give success in wars;
'Tis not Morpheus, who doth keep
Guard above us while we sleep;
'Tis not Venus, she whose duty
'Tis to give us love and beauty.
Hail to these, and others, after
Momus, gleesome god of laughter.

Quirinus would guard my health,
Plutus would insure me wealth;
Mercury looks after trade,
Hera smiles on youth and maid.
All are kind, I own their worth,
After Momus, god of mirth.

Though Apollo, out of spite,
Hides away his face of light,
Though Minerva looks askance,
Deigning me no smiling glance,
Kings and queens may envy me
While I claim the god of glee.

Wisdom wearies, Love has wings --
Wealth makes burdens, Pleasure stings,
Glory proves a thorny crown --
So all gifts the gods throw down
Bring their pains and troubles after;
All save Momus, god of laughter.
He alone gives constant joy,
Hail to Momus, happy boy!

I'll be posting about poetry off and on throughout the month. I don't promise a post every day, but most days.